Silk’s post #18 — Okay, you really have to put the title to music to do this subject justice.
I’m wri-i-i-tin’ in the rain
Just wri-i-i-tin’ in the rain
What a glo-o-o-orious feelin’
I’m … (click heels twice here) … ha-a-a-appy again …
And so on. You can’t see the words without hearing the melody, can you? And you can’t hear the melody in your head without seeing Gene Kelly, fedora awash, splashing through puddles in a Hollywood downpour … tripping out on those unbelievable dancer’s feet of his … twirling himself around the lamppost, his face to the wet sky and his arms flung wide.
Now there’s a powerful image. One for history.
And why is this scene so infectious? Because no one, but no one, has ever managed to portray pure inner joy on the silver screen better than the squeaky-clean-but-oh-so-sexy Mr. Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, which is the reason this exuberant, if somewhat fluffy, movie has endured as one of the world’s best loved classics. There are lots of terrific, memorable scenes in the film, but its undying appeal is all about the dancin’-in-the-rain scene.
It’s a joy so big and bright, it laughs at rain.
Rain – the ultimate in dreary, depressing, debilitating, demotivating, creativity-destroying downers.
Oh yeah? Not according to Seattle author Timothy Egan and a few of his crazy writer friends. Mind you, Mr. Egan’s best known book, The Worst Hard Time, is about the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties, so you can see all this Pacific Northwest rain hasn’t exactly turned him into the writing equivalent of Gene Kelly. But still …
In a January 10th op-ed piece for the New York Times, “The Longest Nights,” he decides to test an idea about the relationship between crappy wet weather and writing productivity on a few of his literary friends. Here’s his opening manifesto:
In early winter, when the heavy rains come to the Pacific Northwest and we settle under a blanket of sullen sky, something stirs in the creative soul. At the calendar’s gloaming, while the landscape is inert, and all is dark, sluggish, bleak and cold, writers and cooks and artists and tinkerers of all sorts are at their most productive.
At least, that’s my theory. As a lifelong resident of a latitude well to the north of Maine, I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity needs a season of despair.
Well, I’m with him on the weather description. And the lack of light. Very well observed. And I feel his pain. What this hasn’t resulted in, for me anyway, is the gush of creativity he mentions. I would be hard pressed to call this my “most productive” season. You might have already suspected this, since I have studiously avoided sharing a page count for my novel-in-progress, like all my show-off writing buddies.
Opinion among Mr. Egan’s colleagues was divided. One claimed that, rather than “being crippled by clinical depression, bending toward the light like a dying tomato plant,” he actually found that the murk of a winter day caused words to “pour out” of him – so much so that he had produced “enough excellent writing to fill a large tube sock.” What another writer found “more depressing than weeks of drizzle” was “unrelenting sunshine,” which apparently robbed her of the proper melancholy required to write.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, one bestselling Seattle author confessed that the best he can do is “put my fingers on the keyboard and hope that the muse can find me beneath Seattle’s heavy gray cloud covering.”
Now, let’s just take a look at the brightly coloured map of the Pacific Northwest at the top of the page. It does look cheerful, doesn’t it? I’d like you to notice, however, that the red-shaded area represents the zone which received between, say, 200 and 250 millimetres of rain during the first week of November in 2006. Yes, that was a wet one, wasn’t it? But things did, it must be said, dry out by around June. I happen to live just on the right edge of that big red blob hanging over Vancouver Island in the upper left portion of the image.
The cause of all this is something called the “Pineapple Express” – a sub-tropical jet stream that sucks up all the moisture out of Hawaii and delivers it right to our door every winter. Unfortunately, we haven’t figured out a way to get actual pineapples to be delivered in the same manner, although that might be a bit messy.
So, back to this business of Writin’ in the Rain. I actually do have a plan to tie all this together. Really.
Here’s the thing: I need to get my writing mojo working properly again. Given that the annual Pineapple Express is likely to deliver Hollywood-style downpours for much of the next several months, I could take my cue from Mr. Egan’s scientific motivational research and try to channel my inner Gene Kelly.
Dance through it. Revel in it. Let the joy and the words flow like pineapple juice.
Yeah. That sounds good. Powerful stuff.
Or … I could follow the route of the Pineapple Express back from whence it came. To sunny Hawaii, where I never have to put on my gumboots to tromp out to the woodshed to fetch wood to feed the woodstove. Where spam is associated with tasty pupus, and the first Aloha Writer’s Conference is about to start. Where I can tap away on my laptop while the breeze wafts across the lanai and waves caress the sand in a gentle rhythm. Tap tap tappety tap.
Another mai tai, please, I’m running a little short on melancholy.
Well, if you were facing a deadline for your novel’s first draft in less than a month, with no actual possibility of writing, say, 70,000 words between now and then no matter where you plant your keyboard … what would you do?
Yeah, I thought so.
Aloha everyone! My next post will be from Maui.